Paris Saint-Germain’s 9-0 win away at ESTAC Troyes last Sunday confirmed Les Parisiens’ fourth consecutive Ligue 1 title and sixth French crown in total.
However, none of those previous five successes have come as early as this one and Laurent Blanc’s men not only set a domestic record in securing the title so early in the season – with eight matches remaining — they also beat Bayern Munich’s former European benchmark as well.
PSG’s devastating attacking display in Troyes capped a fantastic week for the capital club. Their season hung in the balance away at Chelsea in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 tie and the French giants produced a 2-1 win to reach their fourth consecutive quarterfinal.
Corks were popped on some deserved bottles of bubbly in the Champagne region of France on Sunday for some short-lived celebrations. Those festivities were as much for the fact that PSG’s well-devised plans are currently on track as achieving such an early title triumph.
At the start of the campaign, Blanc and his players set the objectives of once again topping Le Championnat, winning at least one of the two domestic cups and reaching the semi-finals — or better — of the Champions League.
With domestic dominance now expected by PSG’s rich and ambitious owners, Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), progress to the last four of continental competition is the real aim among those targets set.
In order to give themselves the best possible chance of delivering on that goal of making it past the quarterfinals at the fourth attempt, the French capital outfit started the term like a house on fire and built up a commanding lead at the Ligue 1 summit as quickly as possible.
Olympique Lyonnais and AS Monaco’s slow starts to the season — one more understandable than the other considering the altered nature of Les Monegasques’ once lavish project — and Olympique de Marseille’s seemingly perennial mediocrity aided PSG’s quest for glory in Le Championnat.
The trio’s inability to put any real pressure on Blanc’s men allowed PSG to sew up their latest crown earlier than they could have possibly imagined.
With league duties now taken care of well in advance of the Champions League quarterfinals, Les Parisiens have also been afforded the chance to rotate heavily ahead of European encounters and to also defend their Coupe de la Ligue and Coupe de France titles. The team are already in the final and semi-finals, respectively.
Blanc’s initial plan was to relinquish one of the two domestic cups. However, winning the Ligue 1 title this far ahead of time now makes a repeat of last campaign’s previously unprecedented French clean sweep possible — on top of a place in the Champions League semifinals.
Although everything appears to be going swimmingly for PSG at present, there have been a few bumps along the way. Incidents involving Edinson Cavani, Serge Aurier and — most recently — Gregory van der Wiel, have threatened the chemistry within the squad. Those flashpoints have not yet adversely affected the players on the pitch though.
Marco Verratti’s continued struggle with injury is also something that would not have been planned for at the start of the term.
The four-time successive French champions did set a new unbeaten record in Le Championnat this season — 36 matches stretching back to last campaign — but a 2-1 defeat away at Lyon ended their hopes of bettering FC Nantes’ 32-game run without losing back in 1994-95.
With that invincible run no longer a way to motivate his players, Blanc must now use the Champions League and the two domestic cups as incentives to keep the Paris-based juggernaut on track, while keeping his key players in optimum condition for the biggest fixtures.
PSG set out to take care of their Ligue 1 commitments as quickly as possible so that they could concentrate on Champions League progress. That is exactly what they have done and now they must deliver when the time comes in Europe.
Friday’s Champions League quarterfinal draw will go a long way towards shaping the rest of Les Parisiens’ season and determining how much of a success it will actually be considered by QSI in a few months’ time.
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